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Let's Work to Put 'Never Again' on Par With 'Never Forget'
My four grandparents, all Holocaust survivors, made sure that from an early age I learned the important lessons, "Never Forget" and "Never Again." While the Jewish community has made a tremendous investment to ensure that the world "Never Forgets," we need to do more to make sure genocide and mass atrocities are "Never Again" -- for any people, anywhere.
It is our moral obligation not only to remember the tragedies of our past, but also to help end ongoing atrocities in places like Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to prevent the emergence of genocide in the future.
I grew up in Quito, Ecuador, and went to the only synagogue in the country. When I came to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, I saw the great commitment that the U.S. Jewish community has made to help keep stories of the Holocaust alive to honor those who suffered and as a reminder that we must not let anyone face another atrocity like the Holocaust.
As time passes, fewer survivors are alive to tell their stories and keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. The great number of Holocaust museums and centers -- more than 160 throughout the country -- offer invaluable information and testimonials that will make it possible to teach future generations to "Never Forget."
As a community, we have started, but not yet achieved, the same level of investment in ensuring that genocide is "Never Again." That task is more difficult. Stopping or preventing mass atrocities is complex, and much less in our control as individuals. And yet, to truly honor those who suffered in the Holocaust, we as Jews must do what we can to make sure that no one, anywhere in the world, faces that kind of horror.
The Jewish community has been very engaged in the struggle to end the genocide in Darfur and mass atrocities in South Sudan. We have spoken out about Darfur in our communities, in the media and to our political leaders, letting them know that we will not stand by while Sudanese experience brutal rape and killing at the hands of their government and rebel groups. We have been a major part of a movement that has compelled our political leaders to put Darfur on our foreign-policy agenda.
But we must do more.
We must take the energy and passion we have devoted to Sudan, and devote it to a movement to prevent future genocides before the damage is already done. The lack of political will to take pre-emptive or rapid-response actions to stop mass atrocities from occurring is a serious issue within the U.S. government and international community. We have the ability to make a difference by pressuring government officials to make genocide prevention a priority.
In the past five years, we have begun to develop permanent systems and organizations aimed at stopping modern-day genocides and preventing future genocides. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, along with the American Academy of Diplomacy and the United States Institute of Peace, created the Genocide Prevention Task Force.
Led by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, the goal of the task force is to "spotlight genocide prevention as a national priority and develop practical policy recommendations to enhance the capacity of the U.S. government to respond to emerging threats of genocide and mass atrocities."
There is now a position in the White House dedicated to prevention of mass atrocities. In August, the Senate introduced a resolution on genocide and mass atrocity prevention. Senate Concurrent Resolution 71 recognizes that preventing genocide is in the national interest of the United States and urges the government to evaluate its capacity for anticipating, preventing and responding to genocide and other mass atrocities, and to determine specific steps to coordinate and enhance those capacities.
This momentum must continue, and my hope is that as individually and as a community, Jews and others will demonstrate a commitment to building the first permanent anti-genocide movement. We all have the ability to educate our communities, and to pressure our elected officials to make ending mass atrocities in places like Sudan, Burma and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- as well as preventing future genocides -- a priority. Help make "Never Again" a reality.
Mark Hanis, president of Genocide Intervention Network (www.GenocideIntervention.net), graduated from Swarthmore College in 2005. He discussed the issue of genocide prevention at a program this week at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.